The conflict between good and evil, Rama and Ravana, and the theme of Dussehra in Bollywood
Vijayadashmi, Dussehra, Ayudhapuja. Numerous names, same significance. The day when the win of Rama over Ravana, good over evil, is celebrated with gusto. However, this festival has a Bollywood spin to it too. Through the years, imbibed in the plots, sometimes within the protagonists, many times as the conflict between two souls, and innumerable times as the war between hero and villain, we have witnessed the complexities of the fight between good and evil, in Bollywood, many times.
The finest example of this can be seen in Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Swades’. The movie was one of the splendid examples of how the strongest messages can be delivered in the most subtle manner. The message of good and evil, and the conflict within was explained marvellously through this song. As the music of AR Rahman coursed through the being, lyrics of Javed Akhtar, and the rendition by Shah Rukh Khan, make this one a magical composition. It told us that Ravana is not an outsider, he lies within all of us, and we need to destroy the evil within to truly make goodness victorious. What glorious plots could not do, this one song did that.
‘Man se Ravana jo nikale,
Rama uske man me hai…’
Another very beautiful example of ‘good over evil’ rendition can be seen in the most iconic movie of Indian cinema, ‘Sholay’. In fact, the movie is still popular today because of the intensity with which it delivered the message. The evil that Gabbar exuded still gives us goosebumps in fear, and the climax still rings in our hearts, with the same intensity no matter how many times one sees him getting hit and almost beaten to death by Thakur Baldev Singh, whose composure finally breaks.
‘Main Hoon Naa’ took the literal Rama and Ravana sequence and meshed it in a total masala formula, complete with patriotism thrown in for good measure. Even though the movie might not have been an intellectual or critically acclaimed one, but it was loved by masses and broke the box office. It effortlessly managed to pass on the message to its core audience, the youth and the mass who loved it in its entirety, and hated Raghavan with as much intensity as they loved Major Ram.
‘Raavan’ was the movie which took over the bold concept of showcasing the story and perspective of the most hated villain of Hindu mythology, in good light. Though the movie tanked at box office and was panned by critics too, but it portrayed that there is no demarcation between good and bad, that the fine line can be crossed and re-crossed multiple times, causing good to become evil, and vice versa, in a jiffy. The complex human nature, and its leap towards both sides was indeed shown remarkably. It again showed us how Rama and Ravana, good and evil, both are within us, both have their own definitions, and it is upon us to make one dominant. But then, the definition of good and bad is different for everyone, depending upon circumstances, and in spite of the fate of the movie, this one managed to spell out that message quite clearly.
Bollywood has been using and reusing this concept quite effectively, meshing it with genres and experimenting, but leaving it the same in essence, and we indeed love it. This Vijayadashmi, let’s take a cue from some of these movies, and work from within to kill the Ravana inside, and give our inner Rama a re-birth.
Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?
Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.
Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.
Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.
But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.
Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.
Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.
It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.
An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.
The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.
The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.
And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.
While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..
Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.